2 Year Sober-versary & The Shit People Don’t Tell You About Quitting Alcohol
In just a couple days, I’ll be celebrating my 2-year soberversary. Wow, did that fly by.
Honesty, at this point I’m not sure if I have to write about it anymore. You guys who read regularly know I haven’t had a drink of alcohol in two years. I went into great detail about it in the two posts that addressed it directly: ‘6 Months of Sober: Why I Quit Drinking‘ and ‘One Year Sober: The Hardest Part of Quitting Alcohol‘. I drop the fact casually into posts about other topics—like whether it is worth it or not to pay for an all-inclusive when you don’t drink, or the cry-timer, an alternative to getting shitfaced when you’re having the worst day ever.
Being sober is not a huge part of my identity. In fact, it feels like such a non-issue in my life, that I feel a bit weird writing about it still. Like one year—that was super impressive. I had never done it before. Never guessed I would. But will I continue to write about this same topic year after year if I never pick up another drink? Probably not. I’m not sure how much value there is in me saying the same old thing over and over.
But just in case there is someone out there who needs to see what life without alcohol could look like, especially in the airline industry, I decided to bring it up again.
Today I’m talking about three things that should be considered if you’re thinking about giving up drinking. Things that are often mischaracterized or simply not discussed at all. Fun, feeling, and healing.
The Itch to Quit
I talk a lot about how aviation is a very social industry. How you can really get to know a person in a short span of time by working with them in close quarters for four days straight, by interacting together at work, and by the socializing you do outside of work—much of which takes place in bars.
“Anybody want to meet downstairs for a drink?” used to be my kryptonite.
Even if I didn’t have a particular fondness for the person asking, even if I was tired from the flight, even if all we had time for was one drink in the crummy hotel bar, I was in. My FOMO was so strong that I couldn’t stay in while the others went out. I earned the nickname “The Socialest” from my work bestie who marveled at my ability to socialize so much and so often.
It can be hard for aviation professionals—flight attendants and pilots—to ‘reel it in’ or to give up drinking. It feels like a big part of the job. (The fun part, one could argue.)
Similarly, if you were socialized in environments where heavy drinking was the norm, like the large public university I attended which carries such a reputation for being a party school that it’s referred to as “Zoo-Mass” or “The Zoo”, then giving up booze might sound really far-fetched. Like okay…so then what do I do?
It’s sad to me now how few activities I would have described as “fun” that didn’t involve drinking in my early adulthood. How only one thing—going out partying—made its way into my rotation of plans regularly.
If you’ve been drinking for a long time, and if there is always alcohol involved in your social plans, then you understand what I’m saying here. The pervasiveness of drinking in our lives is such that cutting out alcohol seems blasphemous. We literally can’t think of what we would do. How we would have fun.
It warrants further examination than just a shrug of agreement. Actually think about it.
When you were a child, running around without a care in the world, inventing games with the other kids in your neighborhood, staying out all day until your parents called you in for dinner, fun was rampant and didn’t require dosing.
Life is certainly harder as an adult. We have bills. We have jobs. Shackling, life-sucking debt. Worry over the path we’ve chosen. Anxiety about the future. Impending dread of never amounting to quite enough. Of not being able to have a baby. Of not being a good parent, failing your children. We worry about taking care of our own parents someday. About our health and our family’s. We feel deep empathy bordering despair for the great social injustices in the world, the unfairness of it all. We worry about what other people think of us. And worst of all, the hardest to face, what we think of ourselves.
Yes, life is harder. But does that mean the end of fun? Can we not get through it in our natural state—are we no match for this life? And if not, do we really believe alcohol will save us?
I wanted my youth back.
I wanted my sense of wonder back.
I wanted to accomplish the goals that I came up with when I was a tiny person, and the world hadn’t scared me yet.
I wanted to actually do the things I kept saying I wanted to do.
I wanted the person on the outside to match the person I felt I was on the inside.
Bright. Witty. Creative. Driven.
I didn’t even really want to quit alcohol for good. I just wanted to see…
What would it be like?
To wake up every single day without a hangover. To be clear and present in all my waking moments. To not spend the hours getting ready, and then at the bar, and then feeling sluggish (at best) the next morning. I wondered how my body would feel without alcohol. What my finances would look like. I wondered, if I gave up this one thing, could I finally get out of my own way?
Do you ever wonder these things?
Spoiler alert: Still social.
For me, giving up alcohol started as a little experiment. A decision made on a whim to give up drinking for 40 days. I’d considered it before many times, but it was too big of a change, felt like too much of a commitment. It made me think about my life as a whole, my future, my failings, and other huge lofty things I didn’t want to face. When a friend asked “What are you giving up for Lent?” I said I guessed I’d quit drinking.
That was February 2020. And here we are. The 40 days felt good enough that I wanted to try for more. As time went on, I started to really like the feeling of not drinking. When I saw the 6-month mile marker ahead in the distance, I decided I should go for it. And once I’d reached that, it seemed a year was the next logical goal post.
Today, I have no idea. I feel great without drinking. My life is much closer to being what I want it to be, and I feel closer to the tiny person who made big goals back in the 90s. I don’t miss drinking most of the time. I have learned to do a lot of things, like socialize, date, and dance, without alcohol. And learning is pretty sweet. I feel more confident in myself because I know I don’t need help from alcohol with these things. The confidence that comes from realizing “I’ve got this”. All on my own. But will I be sober forever? I don’t know.
What I do know is today this feels right.
If you’ve wondered these things, too—how your body, your mind, your finances, your relationships, your drive, might be different if you quit drinking, then you are probably at least open to examining your relationship with alcohol. I’m not here to pressure anyone to quit, I give exactly zero fucks if you drink or not. But for those of you thinking about it, I want to address a few things. Things that are either misrepresented (Number 1) or not talked about much at all (Number 3) when people discuss the prospect of quitting drinking.
I’m hoping to clear the air about some common misconceptions and give my totally non-professional, unsolicited, honest opinion about life without alcohol. So here goes:
Shit You Might Not Know About Quitting Alcohol
1. You can still be fun.
The things people say about “not being fun anymore” once you quit drinking are complete bullshit.
I have had a ton of fun in these last two years without alcohol. I have dated, hooked up, gone to weddings, traveled, explored new beaches, gone hiking, ate delicious food, made new friends, and yucked it up with the old ones. I have howled with laughter and danced my face off. I am STILL fun.
You know what is not fun? Being hungover at work. Throwing up in public. Having men try to take advantage of you because you look like a sloppy, easy target. Erectile dysfunction. Being carried out of a bar. Falling on the dancefloor. These things are not fun.
If you think you can’t have fun without drinking, you’re wrong. It takes a little practice—I mean it literally when I said I had to learn how to socialize all over again. But once you get past the initial dry outing or two, you will be delighted to find that you actually do have a personality without alcohol. You actually can talk to people sober. You actually can dance. Even if your moves suck, who cares? The other people in the room are way more concerned about how they look than how you look dancing. Humans are self-centered, use that shit to your advantage.
If you think your friends won’t like or accept you anymore if you don’t drink, you are probably wrong. And right. There will undoubtedly be some friends who you’ll find you have little in common with besides drinking. It will sting, but it’s not the end of the world. Life goes on. But there are some of your friends—more than you think—that couldn’t care less if you drink or not. Who will support you. Maybe some of them will think you’re more fun now because they don’t have to hold your hair while you puke or go looking for your lost phone…again.
If it feels like all or most of your friends fall into the category of unsupportive, if they make fun of you, or incessantly question your decision to not drink, then you probably need new friends and you probably need to look at your relationship with alcohol. Again, just my non-professional, unsolicited opinion here.
The truth is people don’t dislike being around sober people because “we’re no fun”. People dislike being around sober people because it encourages them to look at their own drinking. And who likes that?
Even if they drink a totally normal amount, compared with your abstinence it looks like more.
People get defensive of their own lifestyle. They will begin explaining that they don’t drink all the time. That they don’t drink during the week. That they only drink on special occasions. They give reason after reason that they don’t need to quit drinking. When nobody has asked. When you certainly have not pressured anyone else to give up alcohol. When you’re literally just trying to mind your business and do the right thing for yourself.
This can get a bit awkward, but it’s not going to kill either of you.
But when the catty comments come out: “You used to be so fun”, “You’re so lame now”, “Come on, just have one”, then consider your boundaries disrespected. And that shit is not fun. Sometimes, people can be more resentful of your sobriety when you are having fun without alcohol. It shines a light on the fact that they don’t know any other way to have fun themselves.
I love my still-drinking friends, (they’re the best) and I hope yours are as awesome as mine if and when you quit drinking. But if conversations like these come up, just know it is not a you problem. It’s a them problem.
Pay no attention to people telling you you’re not fun. That is them projecting.
(And projecting isn’t fun.)
Photo purposes only- Your real friends won't ditch you if you quit drinking.
2. You will feel it more.
Think of surgery without anesthesia. Childbirth without an epidural. Sure, we can survive these things, but man, they are painful.
This is life without alcohol. No way to numb the inevitable suffering you’ll experience. And if you’re human, there is a 100% chance of suffering. Loved ones die. Pets die. People get sick. People hurt us. We fail. We let others down. We face betrayal. Heartbreak. Guilt.
And when you quit drinking, you have the pleasure of feeling every bit of it without reprieve. No numbing with drugs or alcohol. Just pure, harrowing, torturous emotion. Sorrow that convinces you you’ll die from it. Emotional pain felt physically—in our limbs, our aching heads, the jolt in our chest mimicking heart attack.
Even lesser discomforts are intensified. Rejection, for example. Walking up to a person on the street to ask their name, to say you think they’re lovely. That is a harder task than doing so in a bar after a round of tequila shots.
It is hard to go through bad times without the help of numbing agents. But we can do hard things.
Drugs, alcohol, sex, whatever your poison to stop the feelings, they’re only temporary anyway. You know this. You’ve woken up from their glorious haze before only to find your problems still exist.
And let us not forget this intensity of feeling works both ways.
The good you feel can be more intense as well. True contentment. True satisfaction. True pride in yourself. Real love.
The feeling of having fun—not because you tricked your brain with chemicals to make it feel fun, but because you’re actually just doing something fun—is wild. Belly laughter with friends in a sober state is as good a medicine as I’ve found. It just hits different when it’s real, unenhanced.
Making your way in the world without an emotional crutch can feel so, so good. Becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be can feel so, so satisfying. Being with someone who loves you in your truest, most authentic form—no chemical assistance, no social lubrication, no numbing of feelings, no masking… is really fucking beautiful.
Only some of us get to fully feel these things. I’m very happy to have had these two years of being sober. I’ve gotten the chance to experience life fully—in all its pain and glory—and I feel very lucky for that.
Maybe you'll turn out to be a badder bitch than you expected.
3. You will heal more quickly.
Above I talked about how one side effect of being sober is feeling things more intensely. When you quit drinking, you have nothing to numb the pain you will inevitably feel.
But the bright side of this coin is that because you’re facing the pain head-on, in all its ugly fervor, you will also heal more quickly.
The fastest way is through. Not above, not below, and not around. There are no shortcuts, and we cannot dodge our problems, nor our emotions, forever.
We’ve got to walk through the shit to get to the other side.
We say, when we’re numbing ourselves with alcohol, that we are “drowning our sorrows”. But the truth is sorrows don’t drown. Hold them under all the Tito’s in the world, until you can’t see or hear them and it seems they’ve slipped into the abyss. But as soon as the bottle dries up and your buzz is gone, they float back to the surface, taunting us with their resilience. It’s a losing game, unless you plan on being drunk forever.
The unfortunate truth is that we have to face our problems in order to heal.
Alcohol doesn’t help us “face” anything. It is a mask, a distraction, fingers in our ears and “Lalalala I can’t hear you!”
To be clear—self-soothing with a substance when you’re going through something rough is not a sin. I eat ice cream when I’m feeling depressed and I zombie out on Hulu. The problem with using alcohol or drugs to soothe is that it often ends up deepening the problems, making things worse.
You had a shitty day at work, so you get smashed at the bar and pick a fight with your boyfriend. The next day you STILL have the shitty thing at work, but now you also have a (rightfully) angry partner and a pounding headache. You also now feel guilty about your behavior, so add a steaming pile of shame on top of the situation. Sweet!
Will this happen every time? No. Does saying things you shouldn’t say happen when drinking? Yes, it does. Often.
If you happen to be someone like me who feels a constant sense of “not doing enough”—not accomplishing enough, not donating enough, not keeping enough plants alive, not writing enough, not making/saving/investing enough money—then I can assure you that taking an entire day off because of your hangover will make you feel much, MUCH worse.
Again, I don’t think everyone needs to or should quit drinking. But for those of you considering it, this is a huge positive side effect of not drinking. You will feel things more. But you will heal more quickly.
For many of life’s greatest pains the only real solution is time. Numbing with alcohol adds time to your healing, for all the reasons mentioned above. When you’re going through it sober, you will really be going through it. Without the ability to numb, to compartmentalize, or to delay, the thing might hurt more. But it will also end more quickly.
You will recover. And best of all, you’ll be awake for it.
Another pic of having no fun at all with my friends.
Maybe you’re the opposite of the numbing drinker. Maybe you hold yourself together like a tightly-wound ball of rubber bands in real life, but get super emotional whenever you drink. Maybe you drink so that you have the right, the excuse, the courage to feel your feelings.
Different motive but same outcome. You will probably make things worse. You will be embarrassed of your sloppy behavior. You’ll probably have to apologize to people you care about. You might get the treat of a hangover to go on top of it. And none of these things gets you any closer to feeling better.
If anything, you are three steps back from where you started.
Living my literal best life.
These are some important things that people don’t always tell you about quitting alcohol. I’m not going to get into the topics of how your health will fare (well) or your finances (probably also pretty well) because there is a lot of nuance in the human experience, and your journey will be yours alone. But if you do decide to take a break from drinking, these three tidbits are important to know. You can have fun. You will feel things more. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Feeling is part of healing.
If you are thinking about quitting drinking, please check out some other resources that are more reputable than this blog. (I’ve listed some below.) I can only attest to my personal experience of quitting alcohol, and to be honest, it isn’t typical. I have never been part of a 12-step program, which is the most common way people successfully quit drinking. I also did not quit after hitting rock bottom. I also did not set out to live a sober life. I just wanted to see. How could my life be different? How would it feel? A curiosity nagged at me.
If you are curious, too, I encourage you to give it a try. Give it a month, a couple weeks. See how you feel. Maybe you’ll love it, maybe you will prefer bottomless brunch to sober suppers. Maybe you’ll strike some kind of balance. It’s your life. Only you can find the way to your best and happiest self.
If you have further questions or want to talk about your own journey with quitting or cutting back on alcohol, please reach out! You can write in the comments, @ me on Instagram, or email me directly.
Thanks for stopping by to hear about my journey.
May your fun be vast, your feelings deep, and your healing joyous.
Happy weekend, y’all!
Concerned about your drinking or want to learn more? Check out some of these resources:
Alcoholics Anonymous: https://www.aa.org/
Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA—a part of the US Department of Health & Human Services): https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline
The National Drug Helpline has compiled a list of several different hotlines available if you need to or prefer to talk to somebody on the phone. You can ask questions, seek guidance, and get help if you or someone in your family needs it. https://drughelpline.org/alcohol-hotline/
Speaking of family, many of you might be struggling to deal with a loved one’s alcohol problem. If you need resources to help you cope or just feel less alone, then check out Al-Anon. https://al-anon.org/
If you don’t think you have a problem, but are interested in cutting back on drinking or taking a closer look at your relationship with alcohol, then maybe you’d like to try one of these apps: https://www.healthline.com/health/addiction/top-alcoholism-iphone-android-apps
Recovery is not a one-fits-all solution, so I hope whatever you need—a little break or the courage and support to quit for good—I hope you find it.